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Queensland Economic Advocacy Solutions

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QEAS launches additional banner – Australian Economic Advocacy Solutions

Dear All

I’m pleased to announce that 1 July marked the official commencement of an additional banner for Queensland Economic Advocacy Solutions (QEAS) - Australian Economic Advocacy Solutions (AEAS).

QEAS is the economic consulting entity delivering services specific to Queensland based clients.  We are passionate about being a Queensland based and focused business.

AEAS is in recognition that we now have a number of important clients that engage our services from Victoria, NSW and the Northern Territory as well as national organisations operating across every state.

In addition, both businesses (QEAS and AEAS) have each now moved to a company status.  These changes enable better delivery of services to our many clients within Queensland and Australia.

 

Nick

Queensland Economy 2021-22: Business Update

Please see this link for our latest QEAS business update on the performance of the Queensland Economy.

As the Queensland and Australian Governments currently play the blame game on COVID-19 the key point to be made is that all of the progress that we have made, all of the progress our businesses and community have achieved (that is evidenced in this economic update) is now potentially on the line. Unquestionably we need our tiers Government to work together to pull us back from the brink.

There is an ongoing economic recovery at present in Queensland and Australia which is unquestionably a subset of our success or otherwise to the COVID-19 health crisis and lock-downs. 

Queensland businesses were increasingly confident as domestic economic recovery was recovering well that would in turn lead to jobs and investment.  This has led to increased interstate migration that in itself stimulates further economic growth. There are now signs of businesses are feeling they can increase prices and greater potential for modest wage increases.

However key issues going forward are the rapid spread of the COVID-19 delta variant and the resulting lock-downs, the vaccination rollout, continuing trade disputes and winding back of government support.

QEAS's main point is that it will take the Australian and Queensland Government's working well and competently together to keep this economic recovery underway.  Fingers crossed they can and COVID-19 and its restrictions and lock downs are progressively seen in the rearview mirror. 

QEAS Business Update: Queensland Budget 2021-22

The Hon Cameron Dick’s second Queensland Budget as Treasurer is all about managing the tension that exists between keeping the COVID-19 economic recovery underway but inevitably casting an eye to the future and addressing underlying issues such as getting the budget back into surplus and getting our State’s debt back under control.

The key point to note from the 2021-22 State Budget is that the level of negative economic impact from COVID-19 has not been as great as anticipated and accordingly the revenue side of the budget is much better than anticipated. This has positive impacts on results in multiple areas.

The Queensland Budget deficit for 2020-21 was revised upwards with the deficit now only expected to be $3.8 billion (was $8.6 billion) and is based on better than expected revenue. The deficit for 2021-22 is projected to be $3.5 billion with recovering revenue hoped to deliver a small surplus by 2024-25 of $153 million.

Public sector debt will continue to grow from $95.8 billion in 2020-21 to $127.4 billion in 2024-25. However this is approximately $7 billion lower than forecast in the last budget and also reflects better revenue across the forward estimates.

The $52.2 billion infrastructure spend over 4 years announced in this year’s budget compares to a $56 billion announcement in last year's budget. Infrastructure spend as a percentage of gross state product now peaks at 2.9 per cent and not 3.1 per cent. This compares to the decade average of 3.0 per cent and accordingly there is room for improvement on this indicator.

Queensland's economy continues to impress. GSP growth for 2020-21 is revised up from 0.25 per cent to 3.25 per cent and then 2.75 per cent across next 4 years. Unemployment rate is revised down from 7.5 per cent to 6.25 per cent in 2020-21 and then 5.75 per cent in 2021-22. Population growth is anticipated to be grow at a rate above 1 per cent despite international border restrictions largely thanks to strong interstate migration.

With a vaccine roll-out now underway and light slowly starting to appear at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel we will need to inevitably transition to focusing on getting the budget back into surplus and paying down debt. 

This budget does not achieve this until the outer years of the forward estimates - nor should it. However the budget position's gradual improvement in the next several years is entirety thanks to revenue growth and not substantial expenditure restraint. This continues to expose the budget to significant risk.

This will in all likelihood be the last budget that we can forgive the Queensland Government for poor fiscal and economic results due to the extraordinary circumstances related to COVID-19. To this end, this budget essentially represents the line in the sand.

A full QEAS update can be found here

 

 

 

QEAS analysis opens door for discussions on cane farm rates

QEAS was recently commissioned by CANEGROWERS to examine rating practices by councils impacting on cane farms across Queensland.  The report is designed to allow cane farmers to determine whether they are being treated fairly by their local Council. The report serves as the factual evidence behind rating practices. A copy of the CANEGROWERS media release is provided below.

A new analysis of the way sugarcane farms have fared when Queensland councils set their rates will inform important conversations between CANEGROWERS offices and local government.

“We looked closely at 13 councils with a sizeable sugarcane farming industry, where CANEGROWERS members underpin the local economy, the communities and up to one-in-three jobs,” CANEGROWERS CEO Dan Galligan said.

The analysis, completed by the consultancy Queensland Economic Advocacy Solutions (QEAS), assessed the cane farm rate of each council along with its interplay with increasing land values and any measures to limit increases or offer discounts.

The analysis found:

  • On average the local government rate paid by a cane farm is 35% above the average residential rate indicating more reliance on cane farms to support council revenue.
  • On average council rates make up around 4% of the annual operating costs of Queensland cane farming businesses.

It concluded that:

“Most councils have a revenue and rates policy together with their own set of principles as to how rates are determined. However, there is little publicly available information explaining why a particular rate applies to a cane farm.
The resultant outcome can be rate bill shocks that can impede investment and economic growth across Queensland.
There is an opportunity to improve the way rating practices occur for cane farms across Queensland councils with a view to ensuring no adverse or unintended consequences when a land value reassessment occurs and the impact this may have on the final rate bill for each cane farm.”

“We have seen unexpected and large rates bills in some areas having a huge impact on the profitability of cane farms,” Mr Galligan said. “It is vital that increases are kept at reasonable levels. Councils have the power and discretion to cushion any shocks, so the viability of businesses is not put in jeopardy.

“It is important too that CANEGROWERS district staff and elected representatives have a clear pathway to discuss with councils their service delivery to the agricultural sector and the rates charged for those services.

“With the CANEGROWERS district office structure, we are on the ground across the state in close contact with all councils and this analysis will help inform their discussions about how rates are set.

“It will contribute to the close relationship that exists between our industry, represented by CANEGROWERS, and many of our important local councils.”

QEAS appears with LANTRAK in the Queensland Planning and Environment Court

QEAS has just finished a marathon six days in the Queensland Planning and Environment Court assisting one of our valued clients - LANTRAK.

Lantrak is a provider of  essential services to the SEQ building and construction industry providing processing, recycling and disposal infrastructure and transport services to the industry. Lantrak has played a key role in Queensland’s landmark construction projects – including the Queensland Children’s Hospital, Gateway Duplication, Kingsford Drive Upgrade, Gateway North Upgrade as well as current projects including the Cross River Rail, Queens Wharf and M1 Upgrade.

Materials handled by Lantrak are a by-product of SEQ’s continuing building and construction and economic activity. Accordingly Lantrak in enabling this economic activity to occur is an important contributor to the Queensland economy in turn creating broader employment opportunities, generating wealth and driving economic growth.  

QEAS role was to model non-putrescible materials out to 2046 and match this with available infrastructure and available landfill airspace.  In addition QEAS modelled the impact the project would have on Queensland's waste strategy resource recovery targets. 

This represents over 18 months of work for QEAS and it was such a privilege to help LANTRAK with its Material Recycling Facility and Landfill used for residual waste that is either environmentally or technically unable to be further recycled or has had the economic valuable materials extracted from it.

Photo taken outside the Queensland Planning and Environment Court on day one of proceedings.

  

The Business Case for the Compulsory Installation of Engine Immobilisers in Queensland

Across 2021 QEAS has been working with the Queensland Police Union (QPU) on building a business case for the compulsory installation of engine immobilisers to tackle the rising incidence of motor vehicle theft in Queensland.

 

In the latest financial year:

  • A car is stolen every 9.5 minutes; 
  • One out of every 120 Australian households had a vehicle stolen in the last 12 months; and 
  • The value of motor vehicles stolen in 2019-20 was $600 million however the cost to society is much more

It is important to point out that car theft if not just a property crime - 75% of vehicles stolen in Australia are taken
by thieves who steal for transport, to commit another crime including armed robberies, break and enters, terrorism or to trade for drugs.  Vehicle theft with force, or carjacking, also occurs. This is a serious crime and can be very traumatic for the broader community as well as the victim.  Additionally as recently seen in Queensland we have also witnessed several instances of ‘property’ crime that have had devastating and tragic impact on the personal lives of innocent Queenslanders. 

QEAS recently appeared with the QPU before Queensland Parliament's Inquiry into Vehicle Safety, Standards and Technology, including Engine Immobiliser Technology to talk about the QPU initiative.  A link to our appearance can be found here.

A final QPU and QEAS report is due in June 2021 which is anticipated to confirm that there is an overwhelming net benefit to Queensland from the compulsory installation of engine immobilisers.

QEAS Business Update: Queensland Budget 2020-21

Earlier this year the 2020-21 Queensland Budget was cancelled due to the extremely difficult task of framing a budget with the uncertainty of COVID-19’s impact on State revenues. The freshly minted State Treasurer, the Hon Cameron Dick, has released his first Queensland Budget.

As I have stated on a number of occasions it is difficult to be overly critical of any Government in Australia at present due to the extraordinary circumstances related to COVID-19. However this is not a reason to not hold them to account.  And holding them to account in this environment is a tricky business.

With an unprecedented context, historical comparisons are not really useful.  What may prove to be the best accountability is contrasting the deterioration in Queensland’s financial position against our largest rival for business investment - NSW. However, dollar with dollar comparisons with NSW are not appropriate as their budget is significantly larger. Accordingly I have instead compared Queensland against NSW on a range of metrics as a percentage of gross state product.

Key takeaways from this budget are record deficits due to reduced revenue and increased expenditure, record debt levels and a decade high in infrastructure spend.  All of these were alluded to in the Queensland Government’s COVID-19 Fiscal and Economic Review released prior to the State Election on the 7 September. Furthermore much of this State Budget is simply the follow through on commitments made in the build-up to the 31 October State Election by Queensland Labor.  

QEAS analysis on the Queensland Budget and its implications for business and the economy is available here

QEAS Previews the Queensland Government’s 2020-21 State Budget

Earlier this year the 2020-21 Queensland Budget was cancelled due to the extremely difficult task of framing a budget with the uncertainty of COVID-19’s impact on State revenues. The Queensland Treasurer, the Hon Cameron Dick, will be releasing his first State Budget on Tuesday 1st December 2020.

This Budget will confirm actual results for 2019-20 financial year which is yesterday’s news having finished five months ago.  Most interest will be on where Queensland stand’s at the midway point of the 2020-21 financial year and across the next several years.

It is difficult to be overly critical of any Government in Australia at present due to the extraordinary circumstances related to COVID-19. However this is not a reason to not hold them to account.  And holding them to account in this environment is a tricky business.

With an unprecedented context, historical comparisons are not really useful.  What may prove to be the best accountability is contrasting the deterioration in Queensland’s financial position against our two largest rivals - NSW and Victoria who have both had recent budgets.

Below are key criteria that can be used to objectively assess how good the State Budget is for Queenslanders:

1.     What is the revised deficit for 2020-21?   

As part of the Queensland Government’s COVID-19 Fiscal and Economic Review released prior to the State Election on the 7 September the deficit for 2020-21 was projected at $8.136 billion the largest in Queensland’s history. This is largely driven by dramatic revenue reductions arising from COVID-19 and the Government’s response to the pandemic.  NSW’s deficit is predicted to be $16 billion and Victoria’s $23.3 billion. As NSW and Victoria both have much bigger budgets the best means of an apple with apples comparison is to benchmark metrics as a percentage of GSP.  NSW's deficit in 2020-21 as a percentage of GSP for example will be 2.5 per cent and Queensland’s will be in the order of approximately 2.3 per cent.

2.    What are the deficits for 2021-22 and across the forward estimates?  

It will be fascinating to see whether the Queensland Government will endeavour to whittle away at the operating deficit, trying to bring it back to surplus over the forward estimates.  This is extremely unlikely as the Queensland Government has rightly indicated now is not a time for austerity.  Victoria is not endeavouring to achieve this across their forward estimates but NSW by 2023-24 is forecasting a small $460 million deficit with hope for a surplus the following year.

3.     What is the revised level of taxation and other receipts for 2020-21?  

The domestic and global economic downturn is impacting substantially on the State’s revenue sources, as is the case in other jurisdictions. Total revenue has been revised downward across the forward estimates, with key State revenue streams (taxation, royalties and land rents, and GST) substantially lower. The Queensland Government’s COVID-19 Fiscal and Economic Review in September predicted the 2020-21, revenue to be $56.239 billion, a decrease of $5.476 billion (or 8.9%) compared with the 2019-20 MYFER forecast. 

4.     How much is Government expenditure growing by in 2020-21 and in future years and have they kept a lid on growth?  

Expenditure growth has largely proven to be the Queensland Government’s achilles heel with a significant increase in spending since the Palaszczuk came into office in 2015.  However growth occurring in 2020-21 is being justified to support the COVID-19 economic crisis. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic the Government has provided stimulus and longer-term economic recovery packages increasing General Government expenses over both 2019-20 and 2020-21.  Partly offsetting these increases are savings from public service pay rise deferrals. To support Queensland’s COVID-19 economic recovery, the Government is implementing a savings and debt plan with a target of $3 billion over four years to 2023-24. 

5.     How much is government debt rising in 2020-21 and over the forward estimates of the Budget? 

The COVID-19 Fiscal and Economic Review confirmed Queensland’s General Government Sector borrowing was estimated to be $18.376 billion more by 30 June 2021 than projected in the 2019-20 MYFER due to the COVID-19 hit on the budget. Estimates in September 2020 had Queensland’s public sector borrowing punching through the $100 billion ceiling with an estimated $102 billion in borrowings in 2020-21.  Again contrasting Queensland’s borrowings as a percentage of GSP against NSW and Victoria will be enlightening.  NSW public sector borrowings in 2020-21 are estimated at 20.4 per cent.  

6.     What are the economic and revenue forecasts for the next four financial years and are they realistic? 

COVID-19 has severely impacted economic activity across the globe and in Australia with Queensland’s key major trading partners among many countries that have been significantly impacted economically by the pandemic, with flow-on effects on the demand for Queensland’s resources exports.  Reflecting these impacts, Queensland gross state product (GSP) in September was forecast to fall in 2019-20 by 0.25% and will recommence recovering in 2020-21, rising by 0.25%.  We will need to see whether these forecasts change in any way.  NSW is predicting a 0.75 per cent reduction in their GSP in 2020-21 and Victoria a 4.0 per cent reduction.  

7.     What infrastructure projects will be announced?

As part of Queensland’s Economic Recovery Plan, the Government has committed to maintaining the current State infrastructure investment program at $51.8 billion over the four years 2019-20 to 2022-23. This remains the largest 4-year capital spend in nearly a decade. NSW’s capital expenditure in 2020-21 will track at 3.6 per cent of GSP but will fall across the forward estimates to 2.6 per cent.  I will be very interested to see how Queensland’s infrastructure spend is performing in this vitally important area.

8.     What economic and job growth initiatives will be announced? 

Given the close proximity of this budget with the State Election the economic and job growth initiatives have largely already been announced and should just be the confirmation or rearticulation of the announcements made in the weeks prior to the 31 October State Election.  

In summary, the Queensland Government prior to the State Election consistently claimed the State entered the COVID-19 crisis in a stronger position than other States. It is widely recognised that this was not the case (with Queensland lagging Victoria and New South Wales in recent years) however we will almost certainly emerge from the COVID-19 economic crisis in a stronger position.  This will certainly be the case across economic metrics and I think the gap will narrow in Queensland’s favour on financial metrics. 

In short, I predict Tuesday will confirm the following:

  • A stronger growth outlook for Queensland compared with other key States and Nationally;
  • The highest budget deficit on record and total public sector debt rapidly escalating breaking through the $100 billion celling but not dissimilar to that occurring in other States; 
  • No additional revenue measures to address an increasing budget deficit which I believe is prudent;
  • Infrastructure spend will increase and as a percentage of total economic activity will rise to 3.1 per cent in 2020-21 – the highest percentage since 20212-13; and
  • Priorities rightly being placed on health management and protecting the economy.

Key charts from the COVID-19 Fiscal and Economic Update delivered in September 2020 are provided below.  QEAS will be releasing a full budget assessment following the Treasurer’s delivery of the 2020-21 Queensland Budget on Tuesday afternoon.

QEAS Business Briefing: Queensland's COVID-19 Fiscal & Economic Review

 

Earlier this year the 2020-21 Queensland Budget was cancelled due to the impossible task of framing a budget with the uncertainty of COVID-19’s impact on State revenues. The new State Treasurer, the Hon Cameron Dick, has today released instead the Queensland Government’s Fiscal and Economic Review - an actual update for 2019-20 results and its best guess for 2020-21 estimates.

 

QEAS Business Update: Queensland's COVID-19 Fiscal & Economic Review can be found here: https://bit.ly/324YP9T

 

QEAS Business Briefing - Queensland Government's Fiscal Update - July 2020

COVID-19's impact on Queensland Government's GST & other tax receipts (payroll tax, duties etc) coupled with an increase in expenditure to support the economy has delivered the two largest operating deficits in the State's history. The 2019-20 operating result will be a $5.9 billion deficit (the MYFER in December 2019 estimate was for a $151 million surplus) and the 2020-21 operating result will be a $8.5 billion deficit (the MYFER in December 2019 estimate was a $234 million surplus). Over the two financial years this represents a turnaround of $14.8 billion for the Queensland Government.

Compared to the MYFER (in December 2019) Queensland's General Government gross borrowings will be $16.6 billion higher and reach $59.4 billion in 2020-21. Combined with GOCs Queensland's public sector debt will now surpass $100.7 billion.

These results are however broadly consistent with what I would expect for any Government tackling COVID-19. One cautionary note - in any commendable effort to find savings, the Queensland Government should be careful about cutting spend on consultancies. The same approach in 2012 hurt the economy. The Queensland Government has recognised that austerity measures would hurt the economy and I would urge them to equally recognise that a reduction in consulting services provided by the private sector would also be a brake, not to mention the fundamental importance and need for receiving expert advice to deliver Government services to the people of Queensland more effectively and efficiently.

 

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